Retired from the University of Texas and too old to play soccer anymore. Now, in the twilight of his years, time is spent writing in this blog, hiking and exploring Texas Parks, photography, working out, gardening and tending to the five ponds he built .
The day started off badly when I was visited by a pair of Herons which by itself is very unusual as they are very territorial and usually fly alone. Only once before have I seen two of them together on the same pond and to have a pair visit me makes it special, sort of. I think that it was probably a parent and sibling with the parent showing the younger bird the ropes. Hope he learns quickly as I don’t need to be fighting off two of them at the same time. These two never got to fish because I was there. Sheer luck on my part. Then, early this Saturday morning, when I was sitting in the hot tub, there was one sitting in the trees looking all around. When I climbed out it flew off whether it was because of seeing my old and saggy body or more likely because I waved my arms, I am not to know. Hopefully, the water driven Scarecrows will scare them off if they do land to fish when I am not here.
As many of you who read my blogs know that I am a fish and pond enthusiast having built and maintain four ponds in my backyard. The largest is around 6000 gallons and I named it the Big Pond for obvious reasons. The next at 5000 gallons I named the First Pond. It is located off the deck and was the first one built about 30 years ago. Then there are two smaller ponds, one at 3000 gallons that I call the Round Pond and one at 2000 gallons named the Small Pond. These two smaller ponds used to be joined by a weir and the water from the Small Pond used to flow directly into the Round Pond. I had problems in balancing the water and went ahead and separated the ponds by rebuilding the Round Pond to make it twice as deep. They basically are still connected except that the water no longer flows from one to the other. The two large ponds contain Koi some of which are almost 30 inches long and several are between 25 and 30 years old being some of the first inhabitants to the 5000 gallon pond First Pond.
This rambling is leading up, albeit very slowly, to the subject of today’s blog which is actually about the Big Blue Heron that over the years has, at times, helped himself to a free meal at my fish’s expense. We have constantly had run ins with my goal to keep the bird away or at the very least make it difficult to get close to the ponds and it has become a real battle of wits. Whether it is the same bird or a constant stream of them, I am not to know. Wonder what the average life of a heron is?
Years ago when I first started having the Heron problem, I tried all kinds of things to make it difficult for the Heron to fish. I always understood that the birds would walk up to the water and then step in to do their fishing. Some people install trip wires located a few inches off the ground. I don’t know if they work as I have never tried them. Instead, I put 4 ft high wire fences around all of the ponds and then electrified them with a doggy shocker that would make the heron wary and hopefully deter it. This worked for a while until the heron figured that it could fly over the fence and land directly in the shallow water, totally contrary to my earlier beliefs. Of course, it couldn’t do that to the deeper ponds and I do have a video of a heron, who must have visited the Round Pond the year before when it was shallow. Now, a year later, not realizing that it is almost 4 feet deep after I had rebuilt it, struggled mightily to get up and out of the water. He still had enough wits to grab a fish as he flew up
Finally, I added water powered Scarecrows that are activated by motion detectors and placed one on the Round Pond and the other on the Small Pond. These things work very well and are noisy besides sending out a strong jet of water, enough to frighten the bird. The downside to them is that they go off at the slightest movement, whether it be the wind blowing the vegetation or me or the dogs passing in front of them. Consequently, my water bill goes up to $40.00 a month or more from the usual $17.00 when I have them activated. So, I only use the scarecrows when I know that there is a Heron Alert in our neighborhood. I have friends who very kindly alert me when the heron is around.
Based on my previous experience, the Heron usually is the most active in February and March probably because it has a nest with young that need feeding. This year, with so many of the ponds in the area dried up from the lack of rain, I was constantly on the lookout just in case. My neighbors from around me in the area usually text each other when they spot the big bird which was exactly the case this time around. My immediate next door neighbor did just that but the problem was that I was driving and was 20 miles from home and didn’t read the text until I arrived back. By then, the heron had come and gone. I forgot to mention that I have video cameras up in the trees focused on each of the ponds and the heron activated them. Well, the truth is that everything activates them including the wind making the vegetation sway, rippling water, birds and even the fish as they swim around and not forgetting myself and the dogs as we get wet as they go off. This means that I have to scroll through a lot of these two minute downloads on the disk in order to locate any big bird activity. One reason that I knew the Heron had visited was the fact that the goldfish in the Round Pond were not visible and would not come up to feed. They usually only go down and stay down when something spooks them.
Sure enough, when I went back indoors and started reviewing the memory card from the camera system, up popped my friendly Heron in all of his glory busy with a smorgasbord of Goldfish and Koi. He first tried to catch a goldfish by leaning over the Round Pond wall but it gets away. His next move is to hop up onto the wall of the Round Pond trying to catch a fish before eventually walking around the pond and then hopping down into the shallow water of the Small Pond where he managed to catch at least two fish. The last one being one of the bigger ones in that pond of at least 12 inches in length. He really struggled to turn and swallow that fish as the video shows close up and you can see the bulge in his neck where it has lodged. Whether that is its way of carrying the fish back to the nest to regurgitate or is the natural way for its own consumption, I wouldn’t know. Bottom line was that big fish was enough for the bird to complete its meal as it took off almost directly after swallowing its prize.
Needless to say, I have now activated the Scarecrows in the hope of deterring the Heron from making future visits. I plan on closing down the shallow pond and putting it out of commission, filling it in and turning it into a lawn. I will keep just the waterfall activated as a pretty water feature. In the meantime, I will catch the Koi and Goldfish and distribute them between the other 3 ponds so at least hopefully, no more of them will be Heron food in the future.
The Heron really is a beautiful bird and is very impressive with its almost 5 feet wingspan. Kinda reminds me of a Pterodactyl of yesteryear and from the fish perspective, just as dangerous. By the way, there is a Heron statue on the Round Pond so don’t confuse that with the real bird.
The Austin Pond Society held their Monthly Meeting this past Monday, February 17th at the Zilker Botanical Gardens in Austin where most of their meetings are held. The only exceptions is when they go on location to other sites such as Mayfield Park or Austin Aqua-Dome and such.
This meeting was attended by around 35 people, some of whom were there on an exploratory basis to see if they wanted to become members which of course we always encourage visitors to do. All were invited to share in the fabulous pizzas along with salads and deserts brought in by the Members.
At 7:00 pm, Barb, our President, introduced the Speaker for the evening, Bill Biggadike of Bill Biggadike and Associates whose topic for the evening was going to be on Pond and Garden Lighting. Several of the members had expressed an interest in this topic. After a short video, Bill opened up the floor for questions of which there were many and he and his two associates, Kim Reynolds and Steve Garza spent the next hour answering them. Bill apologised for the quality of the video which presented the age old problem of taking pictures at night in the dark and not being able to use artificial light.
Following the presentation, Barb took over and conducted the small bit of business that she had. Julie, as the AAGC Representative was the first person up and gave a brief outline of the meeting that she had attended. Some time was spent in discussing the upcoming Pond Tour to be held on June 6-7. BJ talked about the number of ponds that she currently has on her list and the need for at least a half dozen more. There was also some discussion on the vacancy for a Pond Tour Chairman, a position which is so important and has yet to be filled. We really need someone to pull the Pond Tour all together combining the work by the various individual members and committees that each have separate rolls in getting this great event ready for the Public.
The meeting closed with the raffle drawing and the members drifted away after a rapid clean up of the room. The next meeting is scheduled for March 16 and the speaker will be Adam Coffin from The Great Outdoors. His topic will be “Insects and diseases that are new or lesser known” and should be interesting to learn about the creepy crawlies that inhabit our yards and gardens. Hope to see you there.
Have you ever had “one of those days” when you are full of good intentions but somehow, when it comes to the actual doing, it just doesn’t work our? I had one of those days yesterday as I went through a series of events of doing and then not doing and finally doing nothing at all.
It was a bright sunny day, just right to continue the brush clearing that I have been working on my property. I only have a half acre lot but over the course of the years have built four ponds two of which are 5000 gallons and 6000 gallons so are a pretty big size. The other two are 3500 and 2000 gallons. I also have two streams of different lengths to add to the water features. All of these ponds are interspersed with gravel pathways making it easy to walk around. Just right for Buddy, my fourteen year old male Dachshund who is not only old but has very poor eyesight, no sense of smell, deaf as a post and I swear is more than a little senile. He manages to find his way around the paths and occasionally wanders down to the bottom of the garden to the area of the Murmuring Creek which, by the way, only murmurs when we have a gully washer of rain. Most of the time, it is a grassy area where he proceeds to lose his bearings and madly rushes from one place to the next until he can get back on track.
Over the years, I have allowed the lower end of the yard to grow a little wild either by the sprouting tree saplings which are now eight to twelve feet tall and are interspersed with out of control Thyalis and Leadwort Plumbago making for one unholy tangled mess and completely cutting off the view of that end of the yard from the house. As I have already had one episode of Sandy digging her way out resulting in me replacing the electric fence all the way around, it also made sense to cut back all of the extra growth so that I could observe most of the bottom end from indoors. She may not attempt it again as she has already had a shock with the electric fence resulting in her running screaming back to the house so she knows what the wire can do. Incidentally, it is only a doggy shocker and although enough to give her a start, it is not going to really hurt her. Rather the shock than to be dead on the road outside of the fence.
I have already cut down all of the overgrown brush and the tree saplings and cleared all of the Thyalis but the problem is cleaning up the mess. What I have to do is drag the cut material all the way to the double gates and then outside to the temporary brush pile which is already getting out of control and that is currently where I am stuck. Not physically but metaphorically stuck lacking the effort and the willpower to complete this task. It is not that the work is heavy duty but there is a certain amount of effort that goes into it. The hardest part is trying to work the material on top of the existing pile which is already pretty high so as not to take up all of the space at ground level.
It all sounds simple enough and it is. What is not so simple is actually pushing myself to do the work. For several days, I have tried to work up enough enthusiasm to get out and get it done. After all, my part of the heavy work, cutting the material down with my chain saw, is already done but somehow, finding the willpower and energy to do that last little bit seems to elude me.
Yesterday, I battled with these thoughts and finally decided I would go for a hike instead. Much more interesting you would think but after I arrived at Reimers Ranch, it being the closest hike to my house, all I did was drive the roads in the park, sit for a while and meditate and then drive back home. Like they say, it’s all in the mind and mine is going through a lazy spell right now. It’s like going to the gym. The hardest part is actually getting there and walking through the door. The working out is the fun part but first you have to get past that mental blockage of making the effort.
You might be wondering what I plan on doing with this large pile of brush which is currently blocking my driveway to the back gates. I have two choices. One is the Brush and Tree clearing company located right across the street from me with one of those big Wood Chippers that blow the material into the back of a covered truck to then be taken away to the composting place. The other is to call the Tree Trimming company that did work for me a couple of years ago and have them haul it off in their trailer. Either way, cost will be the deciding factor.
And then again, who knows when I will find the energy and push myself to complete my end of the task. I read somewhere that it is not that as the body grows older it lacks the strength but that the mind is controlling the situation and making the decisions to do it or not. Just like going to the gym…
Hopefully, by the time you read this it will be all cleaned up and I will have a tidy driveway again.
The day was one of those miserable grey days with a very light drizzle, so light that it was hardly visible except that the deck was wet and there was moisture in the air. The temperature was hovering around the fifty eight degree mark but due to the damp air was of the chilly kind. Not the sort of day to want to go outside unless there was a very pressing need like feeding the fish and checking on the ponds to make sure everything was operating OK.
I had nothing planned, no doctors appointments and nothing else that I needed to worry about. Normally, I would have plenty to do outside. Yesterday, I was out in the front of the house where the yard is covered with Asiatic Jasmine which is a pretty good groundcover. Here and there protruded other taller plants and young free growing trees which kind of made for a very raggedy effect. I set about cleaning this up and cut back a lot of the unwanted growth to give the yard a more smoother contour. I do have a lot of Texas Lantana that has self seeded and is growing up through the Jasmine all at one end of the yard and I left that to grow. This is technically still winter, although it has been remarkably mild here in Central Texas and nearly all of the plants have started to grow buds and shoots already. What appears to be dead plants has this young growth making it difficult to know what is alive and what had died off. I will wait to see just how much and if any of this needs to be trimmed especially if we do have a late frost.
Which brings me back to sitting in front of my computer wondering just what to write about. The dogs are very happy and content to be indoors with each of them having there own special place to snooze. Mikey has his own chair right next to mine and often decides that it is time for a cuddle as he steps from his chair onto my lap. He will stay there for a while until it usually ends up with him getting back onto his own chair as I don’t have the most comfortable of laps. Amazing how much of their lives, the dogs spend sleeping. Not a bad way to spend your leisure time.
Sandy likes to alternate between two of the four dog baskets on the floor or on one of the two couches. Any interaction between myself and Mikey is instantly noted and in a flash she is right alongside for her share of attention. Then she goes back to her selected spot of the moment. Sometimes, she will go out through the doggy door and wander around the yard on her own but usually, she waits for Richie and me to lead the way. She has this habit of taking any dog bones that I give her outside and burying them. Yesterday, she came back in with a ratty old bone that had been buried for some time and proceeded to chew on it. I guess it tasted OK to her as she ate the whole thing.
Buddy, the little old man of the group is a definite loner probably because he is 14 years old, very deaf, partially blind, has no sense of smell and more than a little senile. He divides his time between the other two dog baskets and does a lot of sleeping. Quite often, he will go on walkabouts outdoors where he does very well finding his way around. I have gravel walk paths around the ponds which all lead to the grassy area at the bottom of the garden which is the actual creek in my address, Murmuring Creek. This only has water in it if we have a gully washer of several inches of rain as it flows through mine and neighbors yard from the thirty inch culvert just outside of my fence.
Sometimes he gets all turned around and can be seen madly rushing from one place to another at a very healthy trot until he gets himself familiarized once more with his location. He is a funny little guy through no fault of his own and seems to be happy enough. As long as he is healthy and does not have any issues, he will always have a place in both my heart and my home for as long as it takes with no costs spared. Incidentally, the other dogs treat him in totally different ways. Mikey acts like a gentleman around him while Sandy tends to pick on him in a friendly way trying to get a raise out of him. He tends to just ignore her although if she gets too rambunctious, he will try to defend himself. Buddy, on the other hand very rarely interacts with the other two dogs and is definitely a real loner. At this particular moment it is all quiet as they are all asleep in their chosen places. Heck, he doesn’t even interact with me although I do try to make a fuss of him.
It is already late afternoon, 3:30 or so and because of the overcast skies is a miserable and very drab looking day. I do have to go to the HEB store and replenish our food supply and of course, grab my usual Starbucks Latte. This is my one major vice and as I usually buy one every day and at $4:48 a pop, things mount up. You do the math. What the hell, it’s better that being a drug addict. Wait a minute, maybe I am a caffeine addict although I like to think that my habit is just that I like to get out and about and mix with people and not for a desperate need of the stuff. There are some afternoons when I skip it and I don’t feel any the worse for it. I have my own Latte machine and make one in the mornings to have with my breakfast. I was going to say, to get me started but that kinda points to a desperate need for the Latte and its caffeine. A lot of the time, I like to get out and just drive so that I can listen to my latest Audiobook and this usually includes a Latte.
Well, I managed to find something to write about after all albeit pretty trivial stuff. Nothing earth shattering happens in my life and hopefully, nothing ever will and I like it that way.
I walked around the garden viewing the flowers that are already out and it is not yet Spring. So far, even by our mild standards, we are having a very warm winter. We had two nights of frost back in early November and nothing since. It has not even rained that much as shown by the dried up ponds, streams and stock tanks. I was out walking the other day and the temperature reached eighty two degrees. Go figure…
I have taken pictures of the flowers for you all to enjoy and even posted on a Wednesday, something I rarely ever do. With the exception of the last one, they are all from my garden, several roses, narcissus, daffodil and violets.
I consider myself lucky to not have to put up with a winter after living in Upper New York State for ten years. It does get a bit warm in Texas in the summer but I prefer the heat to the cold and snow. Enjoy.
A small group of the Austin Pond Society Board met for a pre-season get together at the home of President Barbara Reinhardt. There are two new and two returning members to this group including Secretary Gwen Goulet, Treasurer Mike Peppers, Librarian Max Rice and Member At Large, Cat Bilberry of which, only Gwen and her husband Glen were able to attend. The group also included a long time Member, Julienne Smith, who has stepped down as Secretary, a position that she held for nine years. Her experience and expertise are not lost forever as she has volunteered to be the AAGC representative for the upcoming year. She was accompanied by her Husband, Phil.
Also included in the attendees were Nancy Hall who is the current Publicity person and BJ Jenkins in charge of the upcoming programs. BJ dragged her husband, Sam along with her although he is always a willing participant to her many interests. The same may not be said in the opposite direction as BJ has not yet taken up playing golf, Sam’s favorite pastime.
Another welcome attendee was Margaret Boeneke who is our Registrar and has done more to bring the Austin Pond Society into the 21st Century than any other member with her technical knowledge and computer ability. Also present was Glen Hubenthal who has been on the Board since time immemorial. No one except Glen knows how long that is. Glen is currently the Official Photographer and Historian for the Association and also the AKCA representative. His knowledge of things long past is invaluable in the current running of this group. Last but not least of those attending was Ted Paone who has volunteered for the most Popular Person in the Organization position, that of Hospitality. Looking forward to some of his concoctions for us to sample. Ted is better known as a previous Pond Tour Chairman. The final members in attendance were our host Barbara and myself, Frank Allcorn as the APS Webmaster and Blogger.
Barb has a very nice pond, built by one of our Sponsors, Hill Country Water Gardens. It is around 1400 gallons and contains three large and about seven much smaller Koi and four Goldfish. Being the winter season, the fish were pretty dormant and on the bottom of the pond.
This was strictly a social gathering and forever changing groups of people could be seen mostly sitting around the pond. Between them, the group provided some interesting food most of which was gone by the end of the get together.
The next door neighbor was out playing with her three pugs and being the dog person that I am, I just had to go over to meet them. They were the cutest things and played up a storm, that is after they came over to say hello to me. As I didn’t have any treats, they quickly went back to their fun and games.
After a couple of hours of socializing, the party broke up and we made our way to our respective homes. It was good to get together in a social atmosphere without the pressures of running the Austin Pond Society. Thanks Barb for hosting a great afternoon.
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